December 1, 2013, 3:37 PM

A solid holiday shopping season opener

More shoppers hit the web and stores over Thanksgiving weekend.

Lead Photo

It seems consumers weren’t too full of stuffing or busy doing the post-Thanksgiving dishes to carve out a little time to shop both online and in stores over the holiday weekend. As the traditional holiday shopping season opener, Thanksgiving weekend retail sales thus far show positive gains in both bricks-and-mortar and e-commerce sales. However, a closer look at the trends show that while store shopping was up for the weekend, it dropped significantly on Black Friday, and that consumers were spending more of their holiday shopping budgets online.

Consumers spent $1.198 billion in desktop online sales on Black Friday, according to web measurement firm comScore Inc., making it the season's first billion dollar sales day and heaviest online spending day to date, while representing a 15% increase versus Black Friday 2012. Thanksgiving Day desktop online sales, while traditionally a lighter day for online holiday spending, grew 21% to $766 million. EBay, Amazon and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. were the top three most-visited properties on Black Friday, comScore says. Apparel and accessories, computer hardware and consumer electronics product categories brought in the most online sales.  ComScore tracks desktop e-retail holiday sales estimates by drawing on online purchase data from its panel of about 1 million U.S. online shoppers and excludes automobile and auction sales.

“While Black Friday—and now Thanksgiving Day—is the traditional kick-off to the brick-and-mortar holiday shopping season, both days continue to grow in importance on the online channel," says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "Clearly many consumers prefer to avoid the crowds and lines typically associated with Black Friday by shopping from the comfort of their own homes, and we saw a record 66 million Americans do that this year. Also interesting is that the recent trend of kick-starting holiday shopping by opening stores on Thanksgiving Day seems to be having a spillover effect on the online channel. Thanksgiving once again posted a well above average growth rate and is the fastest-growing online shopping day over the past five years, as more Americans opt for couch commerce following their Thanksgiving Day festivities."

The figures comScore released today do not include purchases made through smartphones and tablets. ComScore estimates that mobile purchases will add about 2% points to year-over-year e-commerce growth.

Other research revealed today from National Retail Federation executives shows total retail spending over Thanksgiving weekend fell 2.7% year over year from $59 billion last year to $57.4 billion over the same days this year. More than 141 million U.S. shoppers have already or will have shopped for holiday gifts by Monday, up from 139 million over the same time frame last year, the NRF says. That was based on an NRF survey of 4,464 shoppers conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics over the weekend.

Consumers also spent more of their holiday budgets online, according to the NRF.  42.1% of those polled said they shopped online over the weekend. Of those, the average person spent $177.67 online over the weekend, or approximately 43.7% of their total weekend spending, up from 40.7% last year. 26.5% of holiday shoppers said they shopped online on Thanksgiving Day, and 47.1% shopped retail web sites on Black Friday. Additionally, 35.7% shopped online on Saturday and 24.5% had shopped or will shop online on Sunday, NRF said.

“Online shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend continues to be more popular as retailers tout special holiday savings through their mobile apps and web sites,” says Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director for Prosper Insights.

Black Friday sales at online retailer Focus Camera were up 19.51% over the same day last year, says Lukas Agrapidis, director of technology and e-commerce at Focus Camera. Average order value was up 22.90% and mobile traffic up 20%, he says. “Our deals were less aggressive this year, but people seem willing to spend,” Agrapidis says.

ComScore also reported today that desktop retail e-commerce spending for the first 29 days of the November to December 2013 holiday season is $20.6 billion, marking a 3% increase versus the corresponding days last year. ComScore notes however, that, as Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 22 last year, the Nov. 1-29 period c contained a full week of heavy post-Thanksgiving buying, including Cyber Monday, which was the biggest day for online holiday shopping last year. As a result, the 3% season-to-date figure likely understates actual growth, comScore says, with the date-shift effect likely to gradually fade as the season progresses.

According to the NRF, 49.2% of holiday shoppers over the weekend sought out information about promotions and sales via advertising circulars, and one-third conducted online searches to find the best deals. Additionally, 36.8% consulted e-mails from retailers, 16.4% reviewed retailers’ Facebook pages for information, and 12.2% browsed stores to find bargains and sales.

Clothes, electronics, and books, DVDs and video games were among the popular items purchased over the weekend. 57.5% of those polled by the NRF bought clothing and accessories, 37.7% bought electronics, 34.5% toys, and 36.1% books, CDs, DVDs and video games. Additionally, 29.6% purchased gift cards and 16.9% purchased jewelry items.

When it comes to where store shoppers headed, 54.2% of shoppers polled visited department stores over the weekend, and 38.9% headed to discount stores. Additionally, 32.2% shopped at electronics stores and 28.7% went to clothing or accessories stores for gifts.  

On average, shoppers spent $407.02 from Thursday through Sunday (when accounting for what they planned to spend the remainder of the weekend), down from $423.55 last year, the NRF says. Additionally, traffic to stores on Thanksgiving Day itself grew 27% as 31.8% of holiday shoppers took advantage of Thanksgiving Day, a day when a growing number of retail chains opened their stores.

Eager to kick off the holiday shopping season, 25.4% of holiday shoppers say they were at stores by 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night and 37.3% were at stores by midnight, up from 28.0% last year.

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